Wednesday, 05 November 2014. PDF Print E-mail
Speech by Minister Dacic at the SEE Foreign Ministers’ Conference in Berlin
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Dacic at the ConferenceFirst Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic delivered the following speech at the Sixth Conference of SEE Foreign Ministers hosted by the Aspen Institute, which took place in Berlin:

"Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank the Aspen Institute for its initiative to organize a meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the South East Europe region, which creates yet another opportunity to discuss issues of relevance for our region. I would like to thank in particular the Foreign Ministers of Germany and the United Kingdom, Messrs Frank Walter-Steinmeier and Philip Hammond, who are this year's co-hosts of the Conference. We view the Conference as an opportunity to enhance, on the one hand, our mutual ties in the SEE region and, on the other hand, to solidify relations between our region and the EU that we all in the Western Balkans aspire to.

Furthermore, I welcome the Aspen Institute's practice to convene conferences on regional topics also in the WB countries and, therefore, we would very much look forward to Belgrade being chosen as the venue of a similar initiative by the Aspen Institute.

I use this opportunity to thank once more the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany and Chancellor Merkel herself for their initiative and personal involvement in the convening of the Berlin Conference on the Western Balkans last August. We consider this Conference extremely important because it kick-started major regional infrastructure projects and closer economic cooperation in the region of the Western Balkans. We also welcome the willingness to continue to organize meetings like this one in the future.

The holding of such conferences and forums reinforces our belief that the European integration of the Western Balkans, despite the numerous challenges facing the EU, still occupies an important place on the European policy agenda. We expect that the enlargement process will remain the focus of the European Union and the Member States even during the mandates of the new European Commission and the new European Parliament.

Full EU membership of the SEE countries is seen by us as a result of the joint efforts and partner relations between the Western Balkans and the European Union. We do not ask the EU and its institutions any favours in the context of meeting membership criteria. We are ready to deepen cooperation aimed at accelerating the European integration of the region, both with those who have already advanced in the integration process and those yet to take decisive steps in that respect. At the same time, we believe that it is extremely important that everyone advances along this path according to performance, without the need to match to others their own accession speed.

The reform efforts made in the Republic of Serbia have been positively assessed in the last Commission's Progress Report, thus serving as a further encouragement to continue the reforms necessary to transform the state and the society. In line with the recommendations of the European Commission, we shall pay more attention in the coming period to strengthening the rule of law, public administration reform, promotion of media freedom and expression, including the settlement of the budget deficit problem and incentives for private sector development. Improved operation of the rule of law state and the rule of law itself as prerequisites for attracting foreign investments and activating small and medium-sized enterprises in Serbia, remain the top priorities for my country.

In addition, the Republic of Serbia is committed to pursuing an active and constructive policy of regional cooperation and to normalizing relations with Pristina. This fact was also witnessed by the Regional Conference of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Economy of the Western Balkans on economic governance and connectivity, which was held in Belgrade on 23 October 2014.

The Republic of Serbia is striving to establish and improve cooperation with all regions and countries of the world, but it naturally devotes most attention to promoting peace and stability and improving relations in the Western Balkans region. We are committed to addressing all outstanding issues by political means and through diplomacy.

Regional cooperation facilitates deepened bilateral relations, speeds up the integration processes in the SEE region and contributes to recovery from the effects of the global financial crisis on the comparatively weak SEE economies.

For the region of the Western Balkans it is exceptionally important to have EU support in the development of infrastructure projects aimed at transport and energy interconnections that will increase the attractiveness of the region for investors. We are aware that large international companies, when considering the potential for investment, look at and analyze the region as a whole. We know that if it goes well for our neighbours economically and politically, it will go well for us too, and the other way around.

In this respect, we commend the announcement made by the European Commission that it will allocate a million euro from IPA funds in 2014-2020 to finance infrastructure projects for six IPA beneficiaries in the Western Balkans, as well as that it intends to raise, by 2020, in combination with the European funds and those of international financial institutions, private capital needed to finance WB infrastructure projects worth at least 10 million euro.

The overarching foreign policy objective of the Republic of Serbia is full membership of the European Union, and the vision of a common European future is the vision shared by all of us in the Western Balkans.

The European perspective of the WB countries has clearly had a fundamental impact on improved regional cooperation, and helped many unresolved issues in the region to be addressed through dialogue. The European perspective was key factor in enabling the success of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. On the one hand, success of this dialogue has shown that the enlargement policy continues to be a strong driver for the Western Balkans, and on the other hand, it proved that the EU is an indispensable factor in promoting peace and stability in the region. It is essential precisely for this reason that the European Union should remain focused on the Western Balkans. I strongly believe that this is in the common interest of all of us.

Thank you for your attention."